I know I have said this before, but at this time of the year it may be good to consider it again. While we, in the western world, are hotly de-bating the lack of high-speed Internet links, ac-cess to cable modems or a 500-channel satellite TV service, more than half of the world’s popu-lation still have to make their first telephone call.
Many people in Nicaragua, Sudan or Bangladesh – to mention just a few of the many nations on earth that are suffering from natural or man-made disasters, or are simply poverty-stricken – don’t have to make decisions like we do about whether to do their Christmas shopping on the Net or at the Mall. There is no money and therefore there is no shop.
While we are talking about huge decreases in cost which will enable us to build the latest tele-communications networks very cheaply we should also start looking at how we, as a global society and specifically as an industry, could improve the lives of the billions of people who are still suffering from a lack of very basic goods and services.
Telecommunications can make a difference here and I think it is our obligation to use the knowl-edge and resources we have at our disposal to help create a better world. Key developments could include:
· off-the-shelf mobile networks that can be deployed within a few days in disaster zones,
· tele-education systems linking the poorer countries into national and international education programs
· tele-health services providing local health carers with access to hi-tech hospitals around the globe for advice, medical opin-ions and even remote surgery (as trialed in Canada)
· Village-based tele-centres with mobile phone, fax and Internet facilities to stimu-late local businesses to build up their own local economies (already successful in Bangladesh and under review in South Af-rica)
Look at the late Fred Hollows – cheap eye-lens technologies made it possible for one individual to make all the difference in the world. A similar low-cost trend is occurring in the telecommuni-cations world and we need our own Fred Hol-lows to start working within our area of exper-tise.
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